I was born in Australia, my mother was not. My first language is English, some of my friend’s are not. Chances are that you have some kind of multiculturalism in you, even if you’ve never left the country, you may know someone who has; perhaps an international student?
Learning shouldn’t be confined to textbooks
With Australia’s multicultural policy and educational entries to visas, the amount of international students meeting our shores is on the rise. We want them to feel welcome but it’s known that they don’t always feel that way, what can we do about that? (See: Speaking up about racism: do you feel welcome in Australia?)
Studies have shown that international students desire interaction with locals, meaning that without this interaction, there leaves much to be desired. I have been recently asked if I think international education is the rich intercultural experience it could be” and after serious thought I’ve settles on; it’s rich but not as rich as it could be. Allow me to explain.
Interviews with students by Peter Kell and Gillian Vogl identified that difficulties around developing relationships between local and international students centered on differences in social cultures such as where people went to socialise (Australia is more a pubs and clubs culture), what people talked about in passing conversation and above all; language barriers.
We Australians don’t often realise how strong our accents are to anyone of a different first language. We throw around phrases such as, “G’day” (Hello) and “I’ll shout ya lunch” (I’ll pay for your lunch) without giving much thought to how unique these phrases actually are. This and our unmistakeably rising tone within sentences that lead foreigners to think we’re asking a question when we’re just stating something can confuse and isolate people new to the Australian vernacular.
Being more approachable
There are six universal facial expressions, one if which is smiling. Smiling is recognised all over the world and is a great way to make someone feel comfortable toward you. International students learning English to come to Australia often focus on reading and writing and our rough vernacuar can come as a shock, listening to us speak can then become a real struggle. To better accommodate our international counterparts, try speaking slowly and clearly, it helps to be aware of what phrases might not be immediately translated.
I’d like to introduce the term, “cosmopolitanism” and a “cosmopolitan”. Oxford dictionary defines a cosmopolitan as someone who is “familiar with and at ease in many different countries and cultures”. Hopefully one day we can all call ourselves cosmopolitan.
Lastly there are groups around the world who are trying to make the world a more ‘cosmopolitan’ society and a method I found to be effective is suggesting and exploring the ideology that, ultimately, we are all international students.
Kell, P Vogl, G 2007, ‘Proceedings of everyday Multicultural Conference Proceedings of the CSRT‘, in International Students: Negotiating life and Study in Australia through Australian Englishes, Macquarie University, Sydney, 28-29 September, viewed 13 August 2013, <http://www.studyinaustralia.gov.au/global/apply-to-study/visasinternational%20students:%20negotiating%20life%20and%20study%20in%20australia%20through%20australian%20englishes>